Jim DeMint, the former South Carolina senator and Tea Party firebrand who is now the president of the Heritage Foundation, became the latest in a string of conservatives to admit that restrictive voting laws such as voter ID requirements are an attempt to help Republicans win elections, telling a St. Louis radio host yesterday that voter ID laws help elect “more conservative candidates.”
Talk radio host Jamie Allman asked DeMint about Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s move to restore the voting rights of people in the state who had served time for felonies, a draconian restriction that disproportionately affected African-Americans by design. DeMint responded that McAuliffe’s action was “awfully suspicious” and tied it to what he claimed was a Democratic plan to get votes from “illegals” and through “voter fraud.”
“Well, it’s awfully suspicious coming into a big election in a state where it’s actually pretty close,” he said. “I mean, states can decide who votes, but the governor themselves without legislative action, that seems over the top to me. I haven’t seen an complete analysis here, but the left is trying to draw votes from illegals, from voter fraud, a lot of different things, so this kind of fits right in to trying to find another group that they can basically count on to vote their way.”
“So it’s really a bigger issue,” he added, “and that’s why the left fights voter ID or any kind of picture ID to know that it is actually a registered voter who’s voting. And so it’s something we’re working on all over the country, because in the states where they do have voter ID laws you’ve seen, actually, elections begin to change towards more conservative candidates.”
This past weekend something truly historic was set in motion. The 2016 Democracy Awakening was a first-of-its-kind event, uniting multiple movements working to promote voting rights and money in politics reform as well as advocating for fair consideration of the president’s nominee to the Supreme Court. Environmentalists, social justice advocates, organized labor, and communities of faith all came together to demand a government that works for everyone, not just those with the biggest bank accounts who can buy access and influence at the expense of everyone else.
The Democracy Awakening began on Saturday, April 16, with a day of workshops, trainings and film screenings and concluded on Monday April 18th with a Congress of Conscience where hundreds of people were arrested on the steps of the capitol as a massive crowd rallied alongside in solidarity. The Democracy Awakening peaked on Sunday afternoon, with a rally with thousands in attendance on the National Mall followed by a march in front of the Capitol and Supreme Court. Chants of “Money Out, People In” and “Do Your Job” could be heard reverberating off federal buildings as marchers took over the streets.
More than 300 organizations came together to participate in the Democracy Awakening and promote it to their members, demanding that Congress pass four particular bills, two that promote voting rights and two that promote money in politics reform. Additionally the Democracy Awakening demands that the Senate give fair consideration to the President’s Supreme Court nominee, which means hearings and an up-and-down vote. Many of the organizations that collaborated on this event had previously never worked together, and there is a collective sense that things are just getting started, and that we won’t stop until we have a government that is of, by and for the people.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the influential anti-immigration operative who has been involved in both Donald Trump’s border wall policy and the immigration case currently before the Supreme Court, called into question President Obama’s birthplace on his radio program this weekend.
In response to a caller who wondered if the Obama administration’s opposition to restrictive voting laws such as a proof-of-citizenship requirement in Kansas is because the president himself is “not a citizen of the United States,” Kobach said that there are “interesting things” about the question of Obama’s citizenship that “just made you scratch your head.” He added that “maybe” the caller’s theory about the president’s opposition to voting restrictions was correct.
Kobach was speaking on his radio program on Kansas City’s KCMO on Sunday about a column in the Kansas City Star — which Kobach calls the “Kansas City Red Star” — blasting him for his role in enacting restrictive voting laws in Kansas and around the nation, when a listener identified as “Jim from Iowa” called in.
Jim told Kobach he didn’t understand “what the big deal” was about a law championed by Kobach requiring people to present proof of citizenship when registering to vote “because our president, his little grandma said he was born in Africa, he waited two years before he sent out that fake birth certificate, he got a scholarship to a place, a college in California that only gives it to foreigners, so what’s the difference?”
(Just to be clear, Obama’s grandmother did not say he was born in Kenya,his birth certificate is not fake, and he did not get a scholarship meant for foreign students.)
At first, Kobach didn’t address the birther issue, noting instead that Obama is indeed “opposed to Kansas” and “doesn’t like voter ID laws.”
But the caller persisted, saying, “He’s not going to bring up proof of citizenship because he’s not a citizen of the United States, he’s not supposed to be the president, his own grandma said he was born in Africa, what else do you need? And that birth certificate thing was all fake, it took him two years, like I said, to get it sent out. How did he get the scholarship to that college in California that only foreign people get it? How did he get that? How come everybody lets it go?”
“You know, you’re right,” Kobach responded, “and of course that issue’s kind of water under the bridge these days, but there were some interesting things. Like there was that one thing, it just made you scratch your head, there was that one thing that the Harvard Law Journal printed which described Barack Obama as a ‘young student born in Kenya.’ Now, he says that was wrong, and maybe it was wrong, but anyway, maybe you’re right, maybe that’s why he doesn’t talk about proof of citizenship, because he, you know, he would rather not bring up the citizenship issue. Of course, now he’s got nothing to worry about, he’s in office for the remaining year.”
(We don’t know what head-scratching “Harvard Law Journal” article Kobach was referring to, but he could have been getting it mixed up with a promotional flier for one of Obama’s books that mistakenly described him as being born in Kenya, which birthers have made much of.)
When Jim asked if Obama could still “get in trouble” for lying about his birthplace, Kobach responded that “at this point there’s not really any forum in which the facts will be further” examined.
“Well, why didn’t everybody do something about this eight years ago?” Jim demanded.
“Well,” Kobach said, “as you may recall, there was quite a kerfuffle about it back then.”
“Did you notice everybody that was complaining, they shut up like overnight?” Jim said. “I think they were all threatened just like Old Lady Clinton threatens everybody if you don’t do what she wants. I think they’re all threatened, that’s why they all shut up real fast.”
“Well, who knows?” Kobach said. “That whole issue has been a truly strange one, that’s for sure.”
Speakers including Rev. William Barber II, Cornell William Brooks, Dolores Huerta, Kathleen Turner call for money in politics reforms, filling the Supreme Court vacancy, protection of voting rights
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, thousands of people from across the country joined the Rally for Democracy at the U.S. Capitol, as part of the three-day ‘Democracy Awakening.’ The rally featured national leaders, celebrities, and performers, all sending a message to Congress to reform democracy to ensure that every voice is heard.
Rally speakers called for money in politics reforms, filling the Supreme Court vacancy, and the protection of voting rights. Key speakers included Cornell William Brooks, president and CEO of the NAACP; Rev. William Barber, pastor and Moral Monday architect; Dolores Huerta, civil rights leader; Kathleen Turner, award-winning actress and advocate; Ellen Weintraub, Federal Election Commission Commissioner; and many other leaders and activists from across the country. Key statements from these and others are below.
After the rally, attendees marched around the Capitol and past the Supreme Court, ending at Columbus Circle for a faith vigil. Faith leaders told the story of “The Golden Calf” and explained how idolatry of money in the United States today is stifling our democracy and underscores why we must get money out of politics
In addition to today’s events, ‘Democracy Awakening’ events included teach-ins on Saturday. On Monday, hundreds of people – including 60 organization leaders and high-profile individuals – will risk arrest while others participate in a day of advocacy urging members of Congress to fill the Supreme Court vacancy, protect voting rights, and curb the influence of corporations and the wealthy in politics.
More than 300 organizations have endorsed the landmark mobilization. It is a broad coalition of organizations representing the labor, peace, environmental, student, racial justice, civil rights and money in politics reform movements. People are coming from throughout the country, by bus (19 states), air, van and car. They are coming from such states as Michigan, Kentucky, Florida, Connecticut, Tennessee and California.
Key statements from today’s events:
Marge Baker, executive vice president of People For the American Way: “This is a movement moment. Americans feel enormous frustration towards a system where voters have to stand in lines for hours, where every day Americans can’t be heard over the roar of big money, and where some members of Congress are trying to prevent our courts from functioning. Congress has solutions in front of them, and we’re going to keep making noise until our elected leaders take action to create a democracy that works for all of us.”
The Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, pastor and Moral Monday architect: “Fifty years after the signing of the Voting Rights Act, we have seen the Supreme Court nullify its preclearance protections while congressional leadership has refused to fix it for more than two years. This is immoral, an attack on our democracy, and a threat to the furtherance of every other progressive ideal – we cannot stand quietly by. We must now stand up all over the country and reawaken the spirit of true democracy.”
Cornell William Brooks, president and CEO of the NAACP: ““The right to vote is the closest thing we have to a civic sacrament. It is enshrined in our temple of democracy. Yet we are going into the first presidential election in 50 years without the full protection of the Voting Rights Act. When more than 33 states pass new laws requiring a photo ID to vote, but cut back and shut down the government offices where voters can obtain the required cards, the need to act is clear. This is a profound challenge and assault on our democracy. That is why we are here today. An NAACP member by the name of the Rev. James Edmund Prioleau, my grandfather, stood for the right to vote 70 years ago. I stand in his name--and his legacy stands with us.”
Tefere Gebre, executive vice president of the AFL-CIO: “The AFL-CIO is proud to be part of this Democracy Awakening. The unions of the AFL-CIO are committed to broadening our democracy – to having the voices and votes of working people heard. That’s why we will continue to fight the corrupting influence of corporate cash.”
Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch: "It’s time to be bold and visionary. Only a massive grassroots movement can build the political power necessary for taking back our democracy and ousting the plutocrats who’ve stolen it. That’s why I’m thrilled to be one of thousands rallying this weekend at Democracy Awakening—supporting calls to restore voting rights and repeal Citizen’s United. I’m proud that Food & Water Watch is one of the more than 200 groups coalescing to demand that people and the environment are prioritized over profits.”
Jim Hightower, radio commentator and activist: “Democracy Awakening is us – grassroots people rising up to restore our sovereignty over big money. Progress on every one of our issues is hopelessly walled in by corporate bribery funds, K Street lobbyists, crony capitalism, Koch-headed ideology, and nefarious voter suppression. This is the start of something big, and we want you to be there to help make democracy happen again.”
Dolores Huerta, civil rights leader and People For the American Way board member: “Without a strong democracy movement, we won’t be able to make progress on the biggest issues we face: climate change, immigration reform, protecting workers’ rights, raising the minimum wage, empowering women and so much more. I’m coming to D.C. this month to demand that Congress listen to the American people and stop blocking democracy reforms. Si se puede!”
William H. Lamar IV, pastor at the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church, Washington, D.C.: “Now is the time for a new politics to emerge in this nation. Poor and working class Americans now know what Black Americans have always known. The myth that holds America captive is fraudulent. Persons cannot hope to rise by hard work and determination when the political system is rigged to favor big money and highest bidder public policy. Democracy will not be given to the people by those who have purchased the people’s government. The people must accumulate power – across dividing lines – and demand something new. People power must supplant money power! Money is not speech. Money corrupts speech. Undisclosed money corrupts absolutely!”
Annie Leonard, executive director of Greenpeace USA: “A functional democracy is a precondition for a healthy environment, economy and society. The daily protests may slow after the Democracy Spring and the Democracy Awakening, but the movement will continue to grow. The people have made it too big and too strong to ignore.”
The Rev. Ezra L. Tillman Jr., pastor of First Trinity Missionary Baptist Church in Flint, Michigan and member of People For the American Way Foundation’s Micah Leadership Council: “As a father, husband and pastor in Flint, Michigan, I have experienced personally and through the lives of my members and friends, the kind of tragedy that can happen when democracy is threatened. When elected persons place non-elected persons in positions to value cost-cutting budgets above the health and well-being of everyday people, democracy is threatened. I’m coming to D.C. for the Democracy Awakening because democracy is not for some but for all. This is a Humanity Matters issue. We stand united, with a unified message, that it's time to choose the well-being of People over Politics.”
Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen: “Fundamental reform to expand and deepen our democracy, we know from America’s history, follows from one thing and one thing only: mass movements. With our democracy in crisis, now is the time for Americans to mobilize to ensure the right to vote and to get Big Money out of politics. Democracy Awakening is the start of something, not the end, as the democracy movement enters a new phase of intensity, mobilization, aggressive activism and disruption of business as usual.”
For pictures from the event, more information on the ‘Democracy Awakening,’ or to schedule an interview, please email Angela Bradbery (email@example.com) or Laura Epstein (firstname.lastname@example.org).
As thousands of activists from around the country head to Washington, DC for the Democracy Awakening, a weekend of marches, rallies, workshops, lobby visits, and – for some – nonviolent civil disobedience, PFAW hosted a member telebriefing Thursday about the upcoming mobilization. Through the Democracy Awakening, Americans are demanding that Congress take action to fix our democracy, from protecting voting rights to getting big money out of politics to giving the president’s Supreme Court nominee fair consideration.
“These are all connected issues,” PFAW Executive Vice President Marge Baker said on the call. She emphasized that auctioning off democracy “to the highest bidder,” suppressing the vote, or obstructing justice through Republican senators’ “absurd and totally indefensible” position that President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee shouldn’t be given fair consideration are all threats to our democracy.
“We have to take back the engines of our government for the American people,” Baker said.
PFAW Government By the People Campaign Manager Rio Tazewell outlined the schedule for the weekend and noted that even people who can’t travel to DC can still take action in their own towns through letters to the editor, contacting elected representatives, and taking action on social media.
You can listen to the full telebriefing below, and visit www.democracyawakening.org for more information:
The AP reports today that Brian Newby, the Election Assistance Commission executive director who in February singlehandedly helped Kansas, Georgia and Alabama make it harder to vote using federal voter registration forms, was placed in his job in part thanks to the efforts of Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the architect of voter suppression measures throughout the country.
In 2011, Kobach helped push through a law in his state requiring people registering to vote to present one of a narrow list of “proof of citizenship” documents, which led tens of thousands of Kansans to have their voter registrations suspended when they tried to sign up to vote in last year’s elections. Kobach was locked in a years-long battled with the EAC over federal voter registration forms, which did not require voters to present the same proof of citizenship, even attempting to create a two-tiered voting system in which people who registered with the federal form were barred from voting in state and local elections. Then, in February, Newby decided that people registering with the federal voter registration form in Kansas, Georgia and Alabama would have to present extra proof of citizenship, handing a major win to Kobach.
So, it is not entirely surprising to learn that it is Kobach who helped Newby to get his job at the EAC:
An email provided to The Associated Press through open records requests offers a glimpse into the mindset of Brian Newby, executive director of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, who decided — without public comment or approval from bosses — that residents of Alabama, Kansas and Georgia can no longer register to vote using a national form without providing proof of U.S. citizenship.
As a finalist for the job of executive director, Newby said in a June email to his benefactor, Kansas' Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach, that he was friends with two of the commissioners at the federal agency, and told Kobach: "I think I would enter the job empowered to lead the way I want to."
Documents obtained by AP show Newby's ties to Kobach, the architect of voter ID and other restrictive voter registration laws around the nation that he says are needed to prevent voter fraud. Critics say there is very little voter fraud and Kobach's measures hurt voter registration and deprive eligible voters of the right to vote.
Kobach had appointed Newby to be a county elections commissioner in Kansas, and helped him get the federal job that he took in November.
"I wanted you in the loop, in part because of other issues in the past with the EAC," Newby emailed Kobach. "I also don't want you thinking that you can't count on me in an upcoming period that will tax our resources."
Newby declined to comment for this story about the email, referring questions to a commission spokesman, Bryan Whitener, who declined comment. Newby was hired by the three sitting commissioners.
Kobach said Wednesday that he spoke to one, and possibly two of the Republican commissioners, about Newby prior to his hiring.
"I told that person I thought Newby would be excellent and he was one of Kansas' most talented county election officers and indeed one of the most talented election officers in country," Kobach said.
But documents from open records requests and interviews by AP show that as early as April 2015 and continuing in the months leading to Newby's hiring by the commission, Kobach and his staff met with county officials to discuss concerns about Newby's job performance in Kansas. Those concerns led officials to call for an audit of the Johnson County election office Newby led.
Kobach told AP he never informed the federal commissioners about those problems, and insisted they would not have affected Newby's performance at his federal job.
The audit released earlier this month found Newby intentionally skirted oversight of government credit card expenses, wasted taxpayer funds and improperly claimed mileage and travel expenses while at his former job in Kansas. Newby has called the audit inaccurate and misleading.
Frank Gaffney, the head of the Center for Security Policy, and the Heritage Foundation’s Hans von Spakovsky, one of the country’s most vocal advocates for restrictive voting laws, agreed in an interview on Gaffney’s “Secure Freedom Radio” yesterday that the Justice Department under President Obama has been pushing back against voter registration restrictions because the president “wants noncitizens to vote.”
The Obama administration’s Justice Department is siding with voting rights groups that are trying to stop a move by the director of the Election Assistance Commission that would make it harder to register to vote in three states by including those states’ “proof of citizenship” requirements on federal voter registration forms.
Such a step would have a damaging impact on voter registration: MSNBC reports that Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who pushed through one of the most restrictive voter registration laws in the country, has provided documentation that just “seven non-citizens registered in the decade before the state’s proof of citizenship law went into effect in 2013,” while “voting rights groups have said over 40,000 registrations have been thrown out or suspended because of the law.”
To Gaffney and von Spakovsky, this is all proof that President Obama wants noncitizens to commit voter fraud.
“Would it be fair to say … that the government, starting with Barack Obama, actually wants noncitizens to vote and is doing its level best to bring more of them here, among other reasons, for that purpose?” Gaffney asked.
“Oh, I think so,” von Spakovsky responded, “because, look, this isn’t the only instance of this. A few years ago when Florida started trying to clear noncitizens off their voter registration rolls, and they found thousands of them, this very same Justice Department under Eric Holder actually went to court to try to stop them from doing that, making the absurd claim that it violated the National Voter Registration Act … So they actually went to court to try to stop them from taking noncitizens off the voter rolls.”
The Florida incident he was referring to was a planned voter roll purge that the Justice Department contended used out-of-date information and gave voters too little time to correct the record if they were incorrectly identified as noncitizens.
Hans von Spakovsky, a senior fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation and a former George W. Bush administration Justice Department official, said last week that the Supreme Court should count the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s votes on pending cases in which the justices have already cast preliminary votes.
Von Spakovsky mentioned in particular Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a case that would deal a blow to unions and in which Scalia was likely on the anti-union side.
In an interview with American Family Radio’s Sandy Rios on February 15, von Spakovsky said that Chief Justice John Roberts has “an absolute obligation” to count Scalia’s vote in Friedrichs and other cases in which justices have already held conferences.
“After oral arguments before the court, the justices leave the courtroom and they go to a conference room in the Supreme Court building and they take a vote,” he said. “So that’s the point at which they know how a case is going to be decided and the chief justice then makes assignments of who will write the majority opinion and etc. I think the chief justice has an absolute obligation to give credit to Scalia’s vote in those cases that have already been decided, even if he didn’t write his opinion yet, because they know how he would have voted.”
“So on particular cases like the Friedrichs case … that case was argued on January 11, so they know how Justice Scalia cast his vote in that case and I think the chief justice should give credit to it,” he said.
Von Spakovsky is correct that justices cast votes in a private conference after hearing cases … but those votes sometimes change as the justices work on their opinions. Shortly after Scalia’s death, veteran Supreme Court attorney Roy Englert told ABC that the “vote of a deceased justices does not count.”
We can’t help but point out the irony that von Spakovsky has been one of the primary drivers of the myth that massive voter fraud requires suppressive laws that make it harder to vote. One of the voter-fraud specters he has raised is that of people casting votes on behalf of people who have died.
In case we needed any more proof that the “voter integrity” group True the Vote is more interested in stirring up unfounded fears about voter fraud in order to pass restrictive voting laws than in actually ensuring the integrity of elections, Rick Hasen of Election Law Blog spots this fundraising email:
(Image: Election Law Blog)
We previously wrote about True the Vote and its leader Catherine Engelbrecht:
Engelbrecht has worked to drum up support for harsh voting restrictions that disproportionately affect racial minorities by hyping fears of widespread “voter fraud” and recruiting armies of volunteers to root out suspected fraud in their communities. These efforts haven’t exactly uncovered the evidence they’ve been looking for, although they have created hassles for legitimate voters targeted by True the Vote volunteers.
Just in time for the holidays!
Kentucky’s brand new Tea Party governor just broke a campaign promise and REVERSED a positive move by his Democratic predecessor that had restored voting rights to some 140,000 Kentuckians.
Once again, Kentucky will be one of the very few states where people with felony convictions remain disenfranchised after completing their sentences. As ThinkProgress points out, this means that one in five African Americans in the state will be disenfranchised. Studies show that ex-felon disenfranchisement leads to higher rates of recidivism.
Oh, and Bevin also lowered the minimum wage.
ThinkProgress has more:
In another executive order this week, Bevin reversed former Gov. Beshear’s move to raise the state’s minimum wage for government workers and contractors to $10.10 an hour, bringing it back down to $7.25 an hour. About 800 state workers who have already gotten raises will be able to keep them, but new hires will now have to start at the lower pay rate. In the order, Bevin hinted that he would prefer the state have no minimum wage at all: “Wage rates ideally would be established by the demands of the labor market instead of being set by the government,” he said.
Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state and architect of anti-immigrant and voter suppression measures copied across the country, called same-day voter registration a “travesty” on a recent radio program, portraying his restrictive voting laws as necessary to prevent various mythical voter fraud schemes.
On his weekly radio program on Kansas City’s KCMO on October 25, Kobach took a call from a listener who presented a somewhat convoluted scheme involving performing facial recognition scanning on everyone who votes and going to the houses of people who cast ballots by mail in order to scan their faces, all in the name of preventing voter fraud.
When Kobach told the caller that this plan might be a little too costly and complicated to really work, the caller said that desperate times call for desperate measures, citing debunked voter fraud conspiracy theories, including a false story about Woods County, Ohio, and a version of the perennial “people bused in from a big city to vote fraudulently” story, this time one that appears to have originated on the conspiracy theory website Infowars.
“Well, I think that in Woods County, Ohio, 108 percent of the registered voters cast ballots for Obama,” the caller insisted, “and I think that in Wisconsin, busloads of people from Chicago were bused to polls where under state law you could register to vote on Election Day [inaudible] and not even have an ID.”
This, Kobach seemed to think, was a reasonable complaint, and told the caller that his restrictive voting policies have eliminated such problems in Kansas. “Right,” Kobach said, “which is why — proof of citizenship stops that, because you can’t have same-day registration, which is a travesty, I think same-day registration is a huge problem, and proof of citizenship prevents you from registering fictitious identities or registering under someone else’s name. So I think we, you can’t do those things in Kansas anymore.”
Kobach is currently attempting to purge 37,000 people from Kansas’ voter rolls for failing to provide a birth certificate, passport or other proof of citizenship when they registered to vote.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is a leader of the GOP’s anti-immigrant and restrictive voting efforts, and has been trying out some of his most extreme ideas in his home state.
Kobach helped to push through one of the nation’s most restrictive voting laws, requiring people registering to vote to produce documentation of citizenship, such as a birth certificate. Because of this law, 36,000 people in Kansas have started voter registrations but not completed them, and now Kobach is purging that list of people who haven’t followed up to complete their registrations.
The New York Times today looked at the list of incomplete registrations in Kansas and found that a disproportionate number of people it affected were young and that the vast majority were new voters:
An analysis by The New York Times of the list of voters showed that more than half of them were under 35, and 20 percent were from 18 to 20 years old. Fifty-seven percent of the people on the list did not declare a party; 23 percent were Democrats; and 18 percent were Republicans. The vast majority — 90 percent — had never voted before.
“This disproportionately hits 18- to 24-year-olds,” said Jamie Shew, a Democrat and the county clerk for Douglas County, Kan. “For a lot of them, they say, ‘I’m not going to worry about it.’ They’re busy and this is just one more thing to do.”
Under the law, which was passed in 2011, registrants must prove citizenship by producing a document from an approved list, which includes birth certificates, passports and naturalization records. They may bring the document to a county clerk’s office or email a photo of it. Under Mr. Kobach’s new rule, if they fail to do so, they would be removed from the voters list after 90 days. Residents can try to register again even after being removed from the list.
The 36,000 people on the list represent about 2 percent of the state’s 1.7 million registered voters. The Wichita Eagle reported in September that more than 16 percent of people who have tried to register to vote since the law went into effect in January 2013 have been placed on the list.
Earlier this week, GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee said that he didn’t want “stupid” people — i.e. people who won’t vote for him — to vote at all. Then a Republican state representative in Florida was caught suggesting that the party beat Rep. Corrine Brown by redrawing her African-American-majority district to include a large population of prisoners, who are not allowed to vote in Florida.
These are just two of the instances of Republican lawmakers admitting that their electoral strategy hinges not just on winning votes, but on suppressing the votes of people who they think will oppose them.
More than 30 years ago, an influential conservative leader explained why his movement shouldn’t “want everybody to vote.”
Paul Weyrich, an operative considered to be the “founding father of the conservative movement” because of his hand in founding the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the Heritage Foundation, Moral Majority, the Council for National Policy and other influential conservative groups, laid out the GOP’s voter suppression strategy in a 1980 speech in Dallas.
"I don't want everybody to vote,” he said. “Elections are not won by a majority of people. They never have been from the beginning of our country, and they are not now. As a matter of fact our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down."
In 2013, North Carolina lawmakers pushed through a package of voter suppression bills , including restrictions on early voting, something that many African American voters had taken advantage of the previous year.
Conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly rejoiced in the news , saying that the early voting restrictions were “particularly important” because early voting had tended to help Democrats:
The reduction in the number of days allowed for early voting is particularly important because early voting plays a major role in Obama’s ground game. The Democrats carried most states that allow many days of early voting, and Obama’s national field director admitted, shortly before last year’s election, that “early voting is giving us a solid lead in the battleground states that will decide this election.”
Franklin County, Ohio, GOP
In 2012, Republican officials in Ohio repeatedly attempted to cut back early voting hours , fighting off legal challenges from President Obama’s reelection campaign.
Doug Preisse, the chairman of the Franklin County Republican Party (whose area includes the city of Columbus), put his party’s case frankly in an email to the Columbus Dispatch:
I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter turnout machine.
Before the 2012 presidential election, Pennsylvania Republican House Leader Mike Turzai declared that a new voter identification law would “allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.”
In 2013, then-Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott — who has since become the state’s governor – responded to the Justice Department’s accusation that recent redistricting had discriminated against minorities by explaining that the goal was just to discriminate against Democrats and “effects on minority voters” were merely “incidental”:
DOJ’s accusations of racial discrimination are baseless. In 2011, both houses of the Texas Legislature were controlled by large Republican majorities, and their redistricting decisions were designed to increase the Republican Party’s electoral prospects at the expense of the Democrats. It is perfectly constitutional for a Republican-controlled legislature to make partisan districting decisions, even if there are incidental effects on minority voters who support Democratic candidates.
People For the American Way Foundation today applauded Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe’s moves to restore the voting rights of more than 10,000 Virginia citizens with criminal records. By streamlining the restoration process and by removing barriers that prevented formerly incarcerated persons from being able to vote, run for office and serve on juries, McAullife has restored the rights of more Virginians than any other Governor in a four year term.
“This is unquestionably a step towards a more just and more democratic system,” said Michael Keegan, President of People For the American Way Foundation. “We’ve seen that continuing to prevent ex-offenders from registering to vote serves no purpose other than increasing stigma and contributing to the ongoing war on voting rights. Governor McAuliffe should be applauded for his efforts to include more citizens in our elections, and other elected officials should follow his lead.”
“Felon disenfranchisement is just one of the ways that opponents of voting rights have kept people of color away from the ballot box,” said Minister Leslie Watson Malachi, PFAW Foundation’s Director of African American Religious Affairs. “Allowing formerly incarcerated persons to raise their voices as full citizens brings us a small step closer to a system that truly reflects a government of, by and for all the people. We are committed to continuing to work to make sure that all Virginians are ready and able to cast a vote that counts on Election Day.”
“Forward together, not one step back” were the chants heard in every space we entered while we marched for voters’ rights in Winston-Salem, North Carolina last month. On July 13, Young People For (YP4) community college consultant Lela Ali, African American Ministers Leadership Council (AAMLC) administrative assistant Jasmine Bowden, and I participated in the Mass Moral Monday march and rally hosted by the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP to share our voices and energy in the fight against the 2013 North Carolina law (H.B. 589) that advocates have called “the worst voter suppression law in the country.”
Community and religious leaders performed sit-ins three years ago in the North Carolina State Senate resulting in arrests opposing the voter suppression law. One month later, the North Carolina NAACP and Rosanell Eaton filed a complaint in federal district court due to the bill’s violations under the 14th and 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. This history was uplifted by North Carolina NAACP State President Reverend William Barber, II – who is also an AAMLC member – at an ecumenical service at Union Baptist Church Sunday evening. He gave a great sermon titled “Necessary Interruption,” saying that allies and activists are being called to disrupt our nation in order to dismantle the systems of oppression that plague our country and leave behind countless black deaths with little consequences. He spoke on the need for Medicare expansion, policy changes like gun laws and criminal justice reforms, and economic empowerment for marginalized communities. The North Carolina NAACP v. McCrory lawsuit, which challenges the provisions of embedded in H.B. 589, is one of those necessary interruptions of justice.
With a fiery ending to our first night in Winston-Salem, we were excited for the full day of teach-ins that occurred the next morning. We were hosted by Goler Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Church and engaged in various topics from ‘Racial Violence & Criminal (In)Justice’ to ‘Building Coalitions to Sustain a Social Justice Movement.’ Many of our conversations were focused around allyship, direct action, and legal support to dismantle systems of inequity in local communities. We had the opportunity during our lunch break to meet with members of the Young Elected Officials (YEO) Network and ministerial leaders (AAMLC) from People For the American Way Foundation.
Later that day, we headed over to a rally and march only a few blocks away. At this time, the weather had reached its peak of 93 degrees, but this did not minimize the crowd of over 600 supporters. Music welcomed us and speakers from across the country greeted us with boisterous calls to action as they prepared us to take to the streets and rally for voters’ rights. We gathered our signs and water bottles and followed the crowd through the streets of downtown Winston-Salem as we chanted, “Forward together, not one step back!” and “What do you want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!” We were escorted by local police while onlookers from the side streets clapped and cheered us on. Music continued to serenade us as young and old, black and white supporters joined hands to dance in solidarity for justice and equality around voting rights. It was a magical experience that could only be felt in that moment. We walked back to our cars after the march not concerned with the sweltering weather or the sweat staining our clothes and faces. We were excited to be a part of history and exercise our rights to march and protest.
The lawsuit appealing H.B. 589 may not be resolved right away, but activists and allies will continue to take to the internet and streets to uplift the voices of marginalized communities whose rights are violated by those who were elected to serve an array of constituents – black, brown, and white. We will continue to interrupt the notion that young people can’t participate in the electoral process. We will align ourselves with the interests of those who fight for equality and human rights. The fight for voters’ rights is a necessary interruption in the face of injustice.